How (and Why) to Use Your Existing Content to Create Something New

3 years ago

Repurposing your content merely means taking work you've already done and reformatting it so that it looks and feels new. It has one obvious benefit: You've already written most of it, so you don't have to start from scratch. Easy, right?

It can be … but repackaging content is an art. You can and should work with content you've already created to come up with innovations on themes you cover often, find new audiences, and solidify your areas of expertise across platforms.

Image: Mark Crossman via Flickr Creative Commons

You can also repackage your content by turning written material into video, ebooks, podcasts, presentations, and the like, though today I'll mostly focus on synthesizing existing written posts into a new post.

Reformatting for a new audience

If you're looking at expanding your work to a new site or platform, you can tailor things you've already worked on to the style required. For example, on SheKnows, we know that infographic content is interesting to our audience, so if one of our community members has an older post that might make a great infographic, we'll experiment with turning in into a visual presentation. Same content, new format; new audience via SheKnows, and potentially a new audience via Pinterest as well, since the more visual content is friendlier to that platform.

Looking at my own content, I notice that The Great Non-Dairy Ice Cream Taste-Off performed well. It would make a great candidate for a cute infographic with my tasting notes next to each type of ice cream base … though I'd probably want to update it first, since I wrote it a few years back. (I doubt that research will pose much of a problem).

Infographics do take design time, but you can do the same kind of reformatting with the information you work with a lot, changing it up to align it to your new audience.

For example, I've written a lot about writing and blogging tips on BlogHer. If I were repurposing for a post on SheKnows, I know the audience isn't just writers. I'd consider taking some of my best posts about writing tips and turning them into tips for all kinds of creativity instead.

Finding and expanding on themes

As much as I love saving time, I most love repackaging because, as an editor nerd, it's fun to tease out commonalities from posts I hadn't realized had something in common. The key is to synthesize a new twist from the stuff you have, so it strengthens your expertise on the subject without feeling like an echo chamber.

Once you've decided which current posts support your new idea, you can excerpt from earlier posts and link back to them. So literally you just need to write a new intro/angle, conclusion, and transitions. Sometimes, you'll see you have two-thirds of a great post, and you can add a little bit of new writing to make a really great new one. (This gets easier when you have a bigger backlog of content to choose from, by the way.)

For instance, I took a look at my (tons of) posts on BlogHer.com, and saw I am extremely prone to celebrating writerly holidays. On January 1, maybe I'll create a post or graphic of The Year in Word Nerd Holidays, drawing on existing work about National Poetry Month, Punctuation Day, Grammar Day (they're different), and Pun Day (I really like Pun Day.

Solidifying and reinforcing your expertise

Often, a topic you've written about becomes relevant again—child water safety is back in the news due to a tragic accident, say, or it's August 13 and people are searching for back-to-school tips. Don't miss the opportunity to reinforce your expertise.

For example, next Thanksgiving, I might round up my best pie tips from the Month of Pie experiment I did a few years back.

Another way to reinforce your expertise is by conducting an interview. Finding people who are also experts on your topic will allow you to revisit material you've already covered, extend the conversation to create something new, and place yourself squarely within in the community of experts on your topic.

For instance, on Grammar Day, I might take the post Six Companies That Get Grammar Right as a starting point to invite other editors, or maybe a brand expert, to an interview about the importance of good grammar in business.

Expanding into non-written repackaging

Exploring other formats besides online writing helps you expand your audience even further, by placing it on different platforms.

Say you're ready to share your expertise in the form of tips or lessons. Just as you expanded repackaging different lessons into a new post, you can also take those tips and turn them into any of several different learning formats.

  • Use PowerPoint or an online tool like Canva, or the tools at Slideshare to create a presentation deck. Uploading your learnings to Slideshare exposes them to the site's native audience, and gives you back an embed tool so you can put your new deck into a post.
  • You can then use that deck to host a webinar hosted on a site like Join.me, and possibly organize them into a class on a site like Udemy
  • You can also repurpose that same deck to propose yourself as a speaker (to BlogHer or somewhere else), either to demonstrate your ability to organize a presentation, or as the content of the panel itself
  • Consider using a tool like Animoto to turn your work into a video
  • Host a Twitter chat where people can ask questions about your topic
  • You can also gather your tips or lessons on a topic and turn them into an ebook and put it on Amazon and similar sites, which can expand your audience ... and even make you a little money .

I suggest you review your existing pool of content quarterly and think about what you've written with an eye to eventual repurposing, repackaging, and revisiting. If you're truly organized, you might want to keep a Google doc by topic so you have your work handy!

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